Thursday, January 15, 2009

the waves and the "why?"

It was a funny old holiday.

Half way through Christmas afternoon, my throat developed that threatening soreness which is the first sign of a cold or flu, and by 2.00 that night the pain woke me with a start when I swallowed.

It stayed like that through a day of tidying up after Christmas and packing for our beachside holiday, segued into feeling tired and off-colour for the long trip down, and for the first 2 days of our holiday I could only lie on the sofa while my parents took the children to the beach. Three weeks later I'm still feeling tired.

We left Steve at home for a break. He was going to come and join us, but when I rang he had a fever and was barely moving, let alone driving 4 hours to Apollo Bay. Ten days later I returned to a very sick husband, with an awful cough which developed into acute laryngitis. He's even now dragging himself from bed to bath to chair, and is definitely not ready for a return to work, which was supposed to start a week ago. Holidays, wiped out; year, in disarray.

And I'm left trying to see the "why". I think being sick was good for me, because it brought me to a complete halt. I was exhausted after an overly busy year, and needed to stop and do nothing. God knew what he was doing. And if there were less meditative walks along the beach, and no swimming in the surf, I treasured every moment.

Instead of doing what I always do on holidays - asking myself if I'm really making the most of it (applying perfectionism to relaxation) - I found myself intensely grateful for every moment: the waves curling and racing in towards the sand, my 2-year-old laughing as he discovered the joy of splashing through foaming water, and quiet hours spent playing games and reading to children on the grey days (of which there were many).

But if I can find a reason for my own relatively minor sickness, Steve's far more severe illness isn't so easily explained away. I can't see any higher purpose in him being dreadfully ill right through a much needed holiday, and into another demanding year of full time ministry. I can't see any point in him missing his normal holiday with the children, one of the few times they enjoy each others' undivided attention. If I was in control of the universe, I would have arranged things differently.

I always want to know why - to understand God's purpose in every bout of sickness and every painful experience - but what arrogance this is on my part! How great is my need to be in control, even of how God is growing me in godliness! Sometimes I think I see a reason for suffering, but often the reason will remain a mystery. Only God is Creator and Lord of all. Only he ultimately knows why. I can trust him with every one of our days.

One scene from our holiday plays like a moving picture across my mind. My mother and I were going for an evening walk, watching the waves crash on the rocks in the light of the setting sun. We came to a small bay, where the waves run up a steeply sloping beach between two rocky outcrops. The water was unusually calm, filling the bay with the heavy silkiness of molten metal, each ripple edged with glowing silver. It seemed to me that the water was cupped in the palms of two great hands.

We may not know why the waves come, breaking with violence over our heads: but here we will always be, held in the hands of God.


Nicole said...

It's strange the way that sickness seems to catch up with you just when you get to that much needed holiday isn't it? It's a bit like collapsing once you get to the finish line.

I hope Steve improves soon, and you can find some ways to enjoy some time together as a family (flu-free).

mattnbec said...

Your holiday experience mirrors ours quite closely, right down to the timing of when you became ill and when I did (although my husband wasn't as sick as yours and we spent our time at home without other family). Thanks for the reflections.

Hope Steve gets better soon and all the planning and prep for the Uni year 00isn't too badly effected.


Jean said...

Thanks, girls. It seems a common experience, doesn't it?

Gordon Cheng said...

Hey Jean

Sorry to hear of your illness and Steve's as well. Your reflections on both are instructive and illuminating.

May God grant you and Steve good health and the power to continue in his grace as ever. Sick or well, may this year be a year of joy in his service.

Jean said...

Thankyou, Gordo. You too - may you also have a joyful year serving God in whatever ministry he opens up to you.